Access to transparent and accountable justice is the hallmark of a democratic society.

The restoration of justice in Zimbabwe requires:


  • A return to law and order (the rule of law)

  • Access to impartial local courts

  • Restoration of the human rights jurisdiction of the SADC Tribunal, the regional court of arbitration closed down by the SADC Heads of State in 2012

  • Adherence to court judgments – further reading: The Zimbabwe Government remains in contempt of court and continues to flout the rule of law 

  • Justice for victims of gross human rights abuses

  • Dismantling of the culture of impunity for human rights violations

  • Justice and compensation for those who have lost their homes, land and livelihoods

  • The abolition of state land ownership which enables the government to control the people

  • The restoration of property rights / implementation of property rights for all


The fight to restore justice in Zimbabwe has been long and arduous. Former President Robert Mugabe’s ZANU PF government used a brutal and repressive toolkit to deny justice to the people and to silence those brave enough to speak out. 


Although President Mugabe was ousted in a de facto coup d’état in November 2017, his successor and former vice-president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, was a powerful ally and strategist throughout his increasingly autocratic 37-year rule. Mr Mugabe’s mechanisms of control still remain in place. Further reading: Zanu-PF's fearsome reign

The Human Rights Watch World Report for 2016, published in 2017, reports as follows on the Rule of Law:


Rule of Law


Authorities continued to ignore human rights provisions in the country’s 2013 constitution. The government did not enact new laws or amend existing laws to bring them in line with the constitution and Zimbabwe’s international and regional human rights obligations. The government has not repealed or amended the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA), the Public Order and Security Act (POSA), and other laws that severely restrict basic rights. In terms of criminal law, sex between men is punishable with up to one year in prison and a fine.


On September 3, President Mugabe interfered with the judiciary’s independence by publicly attacking judges for “reckless” rulings that allowed protests against his government. His statements also undermined Zimbabwe’s international human rights law obligations to respect due process and judicial independence under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.


On September 9, Mugabe undermined the independence of the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission when he dismissed its report as “absolutely false” and described its chairperson as “stupid.” The commission had published a report showing that partisan government officials had denied food aid to opposition supporters. The commission found the government had violated rights to equality, non-discrimination, and the right to sufficient food. An estimated 4.5 million people needed food aid in 2016.


Authorities have not fully investigated the March 9, 2015 abduction and enforced disappearance of pro-democracy activist and human rights defender Itai Dzamara, who remained missing at time of writing. There has been no progress toward justice for serious past human rights crimes.  


To read the full report, click here